PhD position in ocean biogeochemical modeling and data analyses

Location: ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Application deadline: 15 December 2019

The Environmental Physics Group is a vibrant interdisciplinary team of researchers studying climate change with a focus on the interaction between the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles and its climate system.

Project background

An aspect of growing concern is the possibility that Earth’s climate system might reach or even cross critical thresholds, i.e., points beyond which aspects of this system change abruptly, and possibly irreversibly. The latter are often referred to as “tipping points”. Our current knowledge about the distribution, timing and impacts of these critical thresholds is poor, especially with regard to ocean biogeochemical properties, such as ocean acidification. To study such thresholds and tipping points in the ocean, we are offering one PhD position in ocean biogeochemical modeling and data analyses within the framework of the COMFORT project funded by European Commission (

This project with more than 20 international partners aims to “close knowledge gaps for key ocean tipping elements within the Earth system under anthropogenic physical and chemical climate forcing through a coherent interdisciplinary research approach”. COMFORT’s research focuses on the triple threat of ocean (1) warming, (2) deoxygenation, and (3) ocean acidification and the critical thresholds that these stressors may reach in the future. Extremes may be particularly important, as they can push systems beyond such thresholds at a time when the mean change is still small.

Job description

The successful Ph.D. candidate will investigate how ocean warming, ocean deoxygenation, and ocean acidification have evolved in the Southern Ocean in the past, and might evolve in the future with a focus on extreme events. Of particular concern are compound events, i.e., conditions when several of the drivers are extreme at the same time, or in close temporal proximity. The primary investigative tool will be a high-resolution Southern Ocean configuration of the Regional Oceanic Modeling System coupled to a state-of-the-art biogeochemical/ecological model. The candidate will also work extensively with observations, including those from a growing array of biogeochemical floats.

The PhD student will be supervised jointly by Prof. Nicolas Gruber, Dr. Meike Vogt and Dr. Matthias Münnich. The Ph.D. candidate is expected to collaborate closely with the “Extremes” team of the Environmental Physics Group (3 Ph.D. and 1 postdoc) and to take advantage of the many networking opportunities within the COMFORT project. The starting date of this position is early 2020. Funding is guaranteed for four years.

Your profile
The ideal candidate has a master degree in atmospheric, oceanic and/or climate sciences, physics, computational sciences or a closely related discipline. Your English is fluent and you have excellent communication skills. You have experience with a higher programming language (e.g., Fortran, C, Matlab, Python) and a strong interest to work in a highly interdisciplinary and international environment.

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